Court rules Google need only apply the 'right to be forgotten' in Europe, not worldwide

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Google has won a case in the European Court of Justice meaning the company does not need to apply the controversial "right to be forgotten" on a global basis.

In a case between Google and Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL ) -- a French privacy regulator -- the court ruled that Google need only remove links from search results within Europe.


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The battle between Google and the CNIL has been raging for a number of years now. The privacy regulator had been trying to force Google to censor search results that linked to "inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant" stories around the world -- such as linking to news stories about someone's spent convictions. Back in 2015, CNIL ordered Google to hide links to stories about people that were deemed to be false or damaging, leading the company to impose geo-blocking to prevent European users from viewing such links.

Google only applied the "right to be forgotten" within Europe, and CNIL wanted more -- global censorship of search results. Google expressed concern that this was open to abuse by governments wanting to hide human rights abuse, and it gained the support of numerous technology firms and freedom groups.

In its ruling the ECJ said:

Currently, there is no obligation under EU law, for a search engine operator who grants a request for de-referencing made by a data subject... to carry out such a de-referencing on all the versions of its search engine. However, EU law requires a search engine operator to carry out such a de-referencing on the versions of its search engine corresponding to all the [EU] member states.

Reacting to the ruling, Google said: "Since 2014, we've worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten in Europe, and to strike a sensible balance between people's rights of access to information and privacy. It's good to see that the court agreed with our arguments".

Image credit: Willy Barton / Shutterstock

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